DNA ethics, already a muddled topic, is poised to grow increasingly tougher.
Professors of law at the University of Maryland and Georgia State University write in an article for The Conversation that the “genetic paparazzi” may soon be chasing the DNA of public figures like politicians and celebrities.
They worry that this would cause widespread legal instability, which will be detrimental to everyone, not just the famous.
Courts are unprepared to cope with the potentially civilization-altering and exceedingly creepy repercussions of celebrity DNA theft because of recent advancements in reproduction and genetics, hazy public interest legislation, and the absence of any concrete precedent.
First, it’s not unprecedented for purported celebrity souvenirs to be bought and sold online; examples range from Justin Timberlake’s half-eaten French breakfast to Britney Spears’ gum. It’s possible that some of these products, assuming they’re authentic, might contain usable DNA.
A decade after scientists declared they had sequenced the complete human genome. Genetic technology has advanced to the point where those DNA samples may be useful to poachers. As a result of these advances, there is no scope for frightening conduct.
Take IVG, a state-of-the-art technique that has the potential to convert cells from almost any organ or tissue that is not normally used in reproduction into sperm or egg cells.
If this technology were to be developed, the consequences would be disturbing.
Precedents, to the extent they exist, are not encouraging. For example, in 2018, Madonna was unsuccessful in her attempt to block the sale of various personal belongings, including items containing her DNA, such as her toothbrush and underwear. This bid gained a lot of notoriety.
The scholars write in The Conversation that the legal structure of privacy rights is a “complex web of state and federal regulations governing how information can be acquired, accessed, stored and used.” This framework is where genetic paparazzi cases would likely belong.
To put it another way, the legal system in the United States does not know how to properly acknowledge the personal right of an individual to their own DNA. This is a hazardous gap that might leave people exposed.
As DNA sequencing becomes more commercialized, the need to fill this will grow. Who will make sure that our most personal information about our biology doesn’t get into the wrong hands?
Cases filed by or against well-known persons will have far-reaching consequences. Therefore, we must wait to see how the courts rule on them.
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